20 February 2017

In Which We Meet an Assassin

Scene:  A residential street in a small New Zealand town in summer.  Camera pans over peach trees, branches heavy with fruit hanging over a corrugated metal fence by a sidewalk.  From left side of the screen enter Mali, pushing a jogging stroller carrying Pax in the front and Bear in the back.  Mali is wearing a t-shirt with a picture of The Cat In The Hat and the words "Trust Me, I'm a Doctor."  This is important later.  Bear is wearing gray sweatpants and a long-sleeved red shirt with a fire engine on it.  His hair has not been brushed.  Pax is wearing a shirt with a unicorn and miraculously, is still wearing the pink shoes that were forced onto her feet at the beginning of this run, two kilometers ago.

Siri: Your current pace is. Eight minutes, twenty-three seconds per kilometer.  You're behind; speed up.

Mali slows from a very slow jog to a walk.

Bear: Mom, she said speed up! Why are you walking?

Mali: This is my cool-down walk.  We're almost to the playground.

Pax, removing her shoe and casting it to the ground: Gaah!

Scene: A playground in the same town, about 30 years old and showing it.  The ground is covered in wood chips.  A man is slowly raking them off the concrete path that runs through the sidewalk.  He is about 60 years old and has long black hair pulled into a ponytail. As he moves down the sidewalk, we see that he walks with a limp.

Mali, Bear, and Pax enter the frame from the left.  Bear climbs out of the stroller and runs for the swings.  Mali bends down to release Pax from the harness.

Mali, to the man with the rake: Good morning.

Man: Hello.  'Trust me I'm a doctor,' that's good! I had a stroke a few years ago and it's so hot I'm feelin' like I might have another one.  I hope you're a real doctor.

Bear, yelling from the top of a climbing structure: She is!

Man: All right, buddy, thanks.

Bear: What are you doing?

Man: Cleaning up the playground.

Bear: Why?

Man: Because I did some bad stuff in the past, so now I got to do some good stuff to kinda make up for it.  Community service.

Bear: What bad stuff?

Man: Well I used to be in a gang.  My gang name was Possum, and I could make people disappear.

Bear: How do you make people disappear?

Possum: By killin' em.

Bear, totally unimpressed: But did their bodies disappear? Didn't you have to bury them in a cemetery?

Mali, trying to redirect this conversation: Hey Bear, can you climb up onto that big swing over there?

Bear runs off.

Possum, to Mali: He's a smart kid you've got there.  But its easy to get rid of bodies around here - we've got heaps of rivers.

Mali laughs nervously and starts edging back towards the stroller.

Possum: Of course, if you don't want to risk going down for a homicide, there's a better way to get to somebody.  If you just hit em in the knee with a hammer a few times, I mean a few good solid whacks - well then you don't go down for murder bur you can always out run them if they come for you later.  That's why I got out of the gang though, hated always looking over my shoulder.  But now I got nothing.  I got no woman at home, I had one but she left.  Now I find I don't get on too well with women.  I don't even talk to them anymore.  Last time I talked to a woman out at a pub; asked her if I could buy her a drink and she said she was there with her girlfriend.  Now I was raised in a time when that just didn't happen.

Mali, yelling in Bear's direction: Bear, time for us to go!


Possum, continuing as if there was no interruption: If you acted a little gay your parents just beat you till you acted right.  I once put on my sister's shirt.  My dad gave me this (points to a scar over his left eye) with his belt buckle.

Mali: I'm sorry.  We have to get going.

Possum: So anyway, if you need someone to disappear, I have literally nothing to lose.

Mali, grabbing Bear by one arm and wrestling him back into the stroller: Nice to meet you.

Bear: Yeah, nice to meet you, Mr Possum.

09 February 2017

Calling it

I am called to declare a man dead between dinner and bedtime.  I leave my son watching cartoons and drive the six blocks to the man's house, where family members have parked on the street, the alley, the lawn, the neighbor's lawn.  Dogs and kids run the block while the adults tend to the business of mourning.  I take off my shoes on the porch and hug five aunties before I reach his body, thin and jaundiced, eyes closed.

My job here is to confirm that he is, in fact, dead.  I have brought my only props, a stethoscope and a pad of carbon paper death certificates.  I lay my stethoscope on his still chest.  I sign the paper, rip the white copy off the top and hand it to his wife.  My hands no longer shake when I fill these out.

When I get home my son is still watching TV, perched on top of a beanbag chair that he has balanced on top of the sofa.  He is vibrating with excitement because, "Mom, this mission needs the WHOLE Paw Patrol!"

That night the baby won't sleep, so I try to bring her to my bed, tuck her under my arm like I used to when I nursed her to sleep every night.  But she sleeps only minutes at a time and wakes crying and thrashing and pushing me away.  I take her to her crib and she eventually settles, but now I am awake.

Last night I told Benjamin that I don't want to be married anymore.  I didn't mean to tell him yet, hadn't planned out what I would say, I didn't have a plan for what happens next.  I hadn't even decided, really, hadn't stopped my constant mental tallying of pros and cons, contingency plans and carefully worded ultimatums.  But it was there like a drum beat I could feel in my sternum, "This is over.  This is over.  This is over."

I sit in bed, hugging my knees, waiting for the grief, waiting for the anger, waiting for the loneliness.  Still wondering if I'm doing the right thing.  But at least now it is real, at least now I have said it out loud.  This is over.